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£500m extra cost of Dounreay clean-up

The cost of decommissioning Dounreay is set to rise by more than £500m and there could be further increases on the way.

Much of the increase is due to uncertainty over the fate of radioactive fuel and nuclear waste on the Caithness site The increase came to light as the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) approved the latest long-range plan for the site's closure.

For a number of years the official estimate was £2.9bn. That had been scaled back to £2.1bn but has now been increased again to £2.7bn. Using real-term estimates, the cost will effectively rise to more than £3.6bn.

The cost of decommissioning Dounreay is set to rise by more than £500m and there could be further increases on the way.

Much of the increase is due to uncertainty over the fate of radioactive fuel and nuclear waste on the Caithness site The increase came to light as the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) approved the latest long-range plan for the site's closure.

For a number of years the official estimate was £2.9bn. That had been scaled back to £2.1bn but has now been increased again to £2.7bn. Using real-term estimates, the cost will effectively rise to more than £3.6bn.

Environmentalists said it did not matter which set of figures was used, they proved the public could not believe a word the nuclear industry said about costs.

A spokesman for the UK Atomic Energy Authority at Dounreay said: "Much of the increase is due to gaps identified in our previous decommissioning plans by the NDA. The most significant of these is the addition of a store for nuclear fuel at Dounreay.

"Previously it had been assumed that plutonium and uranium stocks would transfer from Dounreay to a national store, probably at Sellafield, sometime in the 2020s. There have been years of discussion but there was no formal agreement in place. We needed to remove that risk from the plan, so provision has now been included for a fuel store to be built at Dounreay."

In addition, there had been a 10-year delay in the proposed removal of the most hazardous wastes from the site to national disposal facilities, adding a decade of storage costs at Dounreay to the bill.

It is also understood that Dounreay officials have been considering the costs of building a spur railway line to the station from the Thurso to Inverness line in case the fuel and waste eventually have to be moved south.

Ian Roxburgh, NDA chief executive, said: "For the first time we are now able to take a UK-wide, long term look at what needs to be done, and when. This means that the majority of funds over the next three years will be focused on Sellafield and Dounreay."

Duncan McLaren, Friends of the Earth Scotland's chief executive, said: "What is clear is that this represents a major increase in the final clean-up costs at Dounreay."